Sotomayor slams controversial remarks by prosecutor

Sotomayor slams controversial remarks by prosecutor
Monday, February 25, 2013 - 7:47pm

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two members of the Supreme Court took the unusual step of speaking out over racially insensitive remarks by a federal prosecutor in a drug case, when rejecting review of the defendant's appeal.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a strongly worded statement Monday, saying the prosecutor's remarks about an African-American suspect were "an affront to the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection of the laws."

The prosecutor--whom Sotomayor refused to name--said during cross-examination of a drug conspiracy case: "You've got African-Americans, you've got Hispanics, you've got a bag full of money. Does that tell you--a light bulb doesn't go off in your head and say, This is a drug deal?"

Sotomayor, the only Hispanic on the high court, agreed with the majority that the appeal should be rejected for a variety of procedural reasons, but was nevertheless adamant on her larger point.

"It is deeply disappointing to see a representative of the United States resort to this basic tactic more than a decade into the 21st century," she said. "We expect the government to seek justice, not fan the flames of fear and prejudice."

Sotomayor--backed by Justice Stephen Breyer--also criticized the Justice Department for its initial tepid reaction to the remarks, with officials telling an appeals court they were only "impolitic."

"I hope never to see a case like this again," concluded Sotomayor.

The case is Calhoun v. U.S. (12-6142).

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